The Future of A&R

The Future of A&R

A&R’s find and discover talent that can be commercially successful in the music industry. According to Music Clout, they used to “serve as the middleman between the artist and record label and work very closely with the artist,” but now “the power of an A&R rep [has been] diminished” due to the advancements of technology (n.d.). The internet creates a direct path from artist to audience. It also creates a transparent ceiling where music companies can gaze down on musicians and see which ones are making traction. Once they have identified artists that have an established following and show the potential to be commercially successful, they can come down and swoop them up from the indie scene (or at least try). I believe the role of an A&R rep has shifted from seeking talent to seeking people with a paying audience, but there’s nothing wrong with that. According to McCready, “A&R’s primary business function is to… reduce the likelihood of failure in the marketplace (2011).” If that’s the case, then seeking a paying audience rather than talent is fulfilling the primary business function of an A&R. Talent doesn’t pay the bills, but in the world of music streaming, an audience that listen does.

I believe A&R is necessary for small and major labels. Many acts in the music industry are short-lived, but “good A&R’s can… push artists further. (Lindvall, 2011).” A large audience will not always translate to large revenues. Music is basically free now thanks to streaming, so even though an artist can have many listeners, it is not guaranteed that they will turn into paying customers. A good A&R will be able to identify and exploit revenue generating opportunities using an artist’s brand and character. A good A&R can also work closely with the artist to further develop their brand and convince their audience that he/she is worth seeing in a live setting. There are many things an A&R Rep can provide, but that doesn’t mean this support will necessarily come from an A&R rep.

The role of A&R has changed when compared to ten years ago, and will continue to change. The publishing side of the music industry is now more like the A&R Department. They sign artists and catalogues and work with them to get the most money out of the music, whether it be song placement in movies, TV shows, sports, or even video games. They also work with song writers too, which many labels fail to do. I think the role of A&R will eventually be provided by streaming companies, such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. That is where most of the listeners are at, so what better way to develop as an artist and get your music heard than by getting plugged into a popular playlist by a major streaming company like Spotify?

“Big data” is a major factor in the music industry. For people like myself that enjoy numbers, data, and statistics, we thrive on it. It is easy for an artist to download an Excel file from YouTube or Spotify with all of their sales, statistics, and streams. In fact, these reports can easily be acquired from the artist’s digital distributor (TuneCore, CDBaby, etc.). This data has information on the listener and their activity, revealing gender, geographical location, age, and even the device they are using for listening. Many artists are not aware of the importance of this data so it is not vastly used, but for people who want to be involved in the business of music and want to create songs that will captivate their audience, this data is extremely important. Record labels and A&R’s use this data to determine what kind of records are worth investment/attention. As time passes and the value of “big data” is realized, I believe it will be utilized by everyone in the music industry, including A&R’s, artist managers, and even songwriters. The data is extremely valuable.

Resources

Lindvall, H. (2011, January 27). Behind the music: Is the A&R era over? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2011/jan/27/behind-music-industry-a-r

McCready, M. (October, 2011). Why the traditional A&R process is failing the industry and musicians alike. Retrieved from http://www.mikemccready.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/AR-Position-Paper1.pdf

Music Clout. (n.d.). The ugly truth about today’s A&R. Retrieved from https://www.musicclout.com/contents/article-110-the-ugly-truth-about-todays-ar.aspx

 

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